Midwinter represents a challenge for any gardener. Most of us struggle to find interest in our borders once autumn’s spent flower stems are starting to look bedraggled, but – amazingly – there are still plenty of flowers to enjoy at this time of year. With witch hazel, winter aconites, snowdrops and Helleborus niger in bloom this month, it’s a good time to visit the garden centre or nursery and stock up on those good-looking plants for pots and other empty spots. If you can create some colour in the garden at this time of year, you’ve pretty much won the battle! For more heart-warming ideas this February, on page 14 we look at the plants that can bring a little winter romance into your garden. No, we’re not talking about turning the viburnum into an al fresco canoodling spot – it’s far too cold! Instead, we’re looking for ways to create a bit of atmosphere, making the most of seasonal mists, dainty crystals of frost and bursts of ‘Armageddon sunlight’ against a bruised, snow-laden sky. With all this as a backdrop, it’s time to unleash the poetry of your garden, using tactile plants, heady scent and delicate, pastel-coloured flowers. What could be more uplifting? Our reader gardens this month are all excellent examples of how to make the most of this difficult season: using structure, evergreens, bulbs and flowering shrubs to keep the garden alive. And don’t forget grasses – on page 50 owner Kate Patel has created an amazing terrace of bleached-blonde grasses and silvery nepeta just outside her kitchen window. Now here’s someone who knows how to create poetry with plants!
A FINE ROMANCE Frost, ice and sunlit grasses add atmosphere, p14; fragrant Prunus mume
‘Beni-chidori’ flowers in late February, p18